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Hydroplaning

Hydroplaning (or aquaplaning) happens when tires fail to sustain contact with the pavement, and instead slide on a layer of water. This results in a loss of steering and braking control and is most likely to occur in deeper puddles and heavy rain, combined with inappropriate speed. A loss of traction occurs in hydroplaning, which means that the vehicle will not respond to driver input as normal. What you may experience will range from the car suddenly feeling a bit loose on the road, to a loud increase in RPM and the wheels spinning. If this occurs in a bend, the car may continue to travel toward the outside of the bend, not responding to control inputs.     

Defensive driving means recognizing the conditions on the road and adapting your speed and driving to these conditions. To preempt hydroplaning, you should make sure your tires are well-maintained, and, in wet weather, always slow down. Keep an eye out for worn tread, as it is the grooves in your tires that channel the water away and ensure friction between your vehicle and the road.

If hydroplaning still occurs and your vehicle is out of control, do not hit the brakes. This may be the instinctive thing to do, but it can actually only make matters worse, causing the car to skid. Instead, aim to slow down as smoothly as possible by lifting your foot off the accelerator.

If the back wheels hydroplane, you will need to steer in the direction of the skid until you regain traction, then swiftly steer back to straighten the car.

Road factors that can affect hydroplaning include poorly maintained roads with deep ruts collecting water, road texture, road design and drainage available (the cross slope), the grade of the road (steepness), and weather conditions.

Vehicle-related factors include the quality of driving, especially speed, braking, and steering, vehicle type (with combination vehicles more likely to hydroplane), vehicle size and weight, tire tread wear and inflation pressure.


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